Looking After Children

This service description describes the Looking After Children (LAC) framework and LAC records used for children in out-of-home care.

Introduction

Looking After Children (LAC) is an outcomes-focused approach for collaboratively providing good care for children placed in out-of-home care.

In Victoria, LAC provides the practice framework for considering how each child's needs will be met, while that child is in out-of-home care. It is used for managing out-of-home care in accordance with the Best Interests Case Practice Model cycle of information gathering, assessment, planning, implementation and review.

When a child is placed in out-of-home care, a group of people share the responsibilities for doing the things that parents generally do: the placement agency care manager, the carers (foster carers, kinship carers or residential workers), the child protection practitioner or contracted case manager, the child's parents and in some cases other adults directly involved in caring for the child such as family members, Aboriginal elders, respite carers, disability workers. In out-of-home care, this group of people is referred to as the child's care team. The LAC framework, processes and tools assist the care team to more effectively work together to respond to the child's safety, wellbeing and developmental needs while that child is in out-of-home care.

The service provider providing the placement or kinship placement support is responsible for coordinating the LAC processes and completing the LAC records with the other care team members and the child.

LAC considers the child’s needs and outcomes across seven developmental domains which encompass each child’s safety, wellbeing and developmental objectives. Information about LAC is available on the department’s website at Looking After Children in Victoria and at Looking After Children in practice.

The LAC domains

Health

This area includes: progress towards achieving all the physical developmental milestones from childhood to puberty; injury prevention and immunisation against preventable illnesses; personal hygiene; good dental care; the provision of a healthy diet; and the development and maintenance of a physically active lifestyle.

Emotional and behavioural development

This area focuses on the child’s responses to other people and the world around them, as reflected in their feelings and demonstrated through their actions. Positive and nurturing relationships build healthy emotional and behavioural responses that equip children and young people to better deal with stressors and become resilient.

Education

Every child needs to be supported to maximise their educational potential. Participation in preschool, primary and secondary schooling to vocational training or tertiary studies is very important for developing life skills and the ability to learn.

Family and social relationships

The child has established meaningful, stable, appropriate and affectionate relationships with family and peers and others within their social network.

Identity

This are covers the questions of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where do I belong?’ The sense of self is influenced by their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and physical appearance. Family, community and culture provide significant elements of a child’s identity, especially for Aboriginal children. Photos, certificates, mementos, recalling and retelling shared experiences develop the individual child or young person’s ‘life story’ about growing up in a particular time and space.

Social presentation

A child’s appearance, social behaviour and personal habits affect how other people perceive and treat them. These reactions will affect a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Young people need guidance and resources to present themselves in ways that help them to be positively regarded by their peers and adults. Recreation and leisure activities develop self-confidence and skills related to successful interactions with peers.

Self-care skills

All children need to be given the opportunity to care for themselves at a level appropriate to their age and ability, with the goal of eventual independence.

LAC records

Essential information record (EIR)

What is it?

  • Holds important information such as:
    • Medicare number
    • health alerts/conditions
    • school details
    • family members’ names and details
    • important milestones and achievements.
  • Contains both historical and current information.
  • Provides a place to keep information that will always remain true about the child /young person (so needs to be kept up to date)
  • Information is organised according to the seven Looking After Children domains:
    • health
    • emotional and behavioural development
    • education
    • family and social relationships
    • identity
    • social presentation
    • self-care skills.

Why use it?

  • Records factual information consistently and systematically in the one place.
  • Keeps together all the important information needed to provide good care.
  • Easier to look up key details in one place rather than trawling through multiple case notes.

How use it?

  • Placement referral information is copied into the relevant sections.
  • Started in first two weeks of placement (at the same time C&PP is being developed).
  • All members of care team contribute information they each know that should be shared.
  • Update whenever new information obtained – and check that it is still up to date at least 6 monthly.
  • Carers need to be given a copy (and updates with any future significant changes)  

How it links with child protection processes?

  • Enables important factual information to be kept and shared in the best interests of the child/young person.
  • CRIS and CRISSP have mirror systems for recording information needed for the EIR - so the placement provider and child protection should each provide the other with an electronic copy of their updated EIR whenever any significant changes are made.

Care and placement plan (C&PP)

What is it?

  • Describes how the child/ young person’s needs will be met while they are unable to live with their parents.
  • Records what care team members have agreed to do to provide good care across the seven Looking After Children domains:
    • health
    • emotional and behavioural development
    • education
    • family and social relationships
    • identity
    • social presentation
    • self-care skills.
  • For each life area the C&PP documents:
    • the child/young person’s needs
    • how they will be responded to
    • by whom
    • by when
    • the role of the parents
    • planned outcomes.

Why use it?

  • Provides a clear plan for how the day to day care of the child /young person will be managed while they are unable to live with their parents.
  • Promotes and supports collaboration by care team members who share the responsibility for doing the things that parents generally do.
  • Clearly documents what the care team has agreed to do and achieve.

How use it?

  • An initial C&PP focussing on immediate needs should be completed within the first two weeks.
  • A flexible and creative approach is required to get everyone’s input (skilful use of LAC!)
  • A meeting can be used to bring care team members together, but not essential.
  • Plans should be discussed age appropriately with the child/young person and their input encouraged.
  • Should consider the child/young person’s strengths and aspirations as well as any problems and difficulties.
  • Plans should be monitored – supervision is good for this.
  • All members of the care team and the young person should be given a copy of the C&PP (or at least be offered a copy).

How it links with child protection processes?

  • The C&PP is a sub-component of the overall case plan (Best interests plan).
  • The case plan provides the key directions for the C&PP including whether a child will remain in out of home care, be reunified with their family or be placed elsewhere.
  • The placement provider should give child protection an electronic copy of the current C&PP to child protection to be attached to the CRIS file (including after each review).
  • When case management has been contracted, the contracted agency should complete the C&PP in CRIS  and ensure that an electronic back up copy is attached to the agency’s CRISSP file.
  • The C&PP also complements and is linked to:
    • Cultural plans (for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care)
    • Individual education plans (developed by schools via Student Support Groups who should include at least one member from the child’s care team)
    • Transition planning / leaving care planning).

Assessment and progress record (A&PR)

What are they?

  • Six age related records that comprehensively assess a young person’s development and identifies the follow up action needed:
    • under 12 months
    • 1-2 years
    • 3-4 years
    • 5-9 years
    • 10-14 years
    • 15 years and older.
  • Covers the seven Looking After Children domains:
    • health
    • emotional and behavioural development
    • education
    • family and social relationships
    • identity
    • social presentation
    • self-care skills.
  • Developed from extensive evidence based research related to good parenting and good outcomes for children and young people.
  • Consistent international framework specifically customised for Victoria.

Why use them?

  • Provides a thorough assessment of how each child or young person is developing in relation to their peers and the extent to which their needs are being met while they are in care.
  • To inform and enable the best possible care of each individual child/young person based on their developmental needs and outcomes.
  • A good parent would know or ask these questions and have the answers in their head – we need to ask and share the answers to ensure good care.
  • To provide information which can be aggregated to inform and assess outcomes for groups of children in care and direct policy.

How are they used?

  • Requires considerable knowledge about the child so will generally take 4-6 weeks to complete.
  • The collaborative approach used to develop the C&PP needs to be used for the review process.
  • Based on having ‘conversations’ amongst the care team and with the child/young person.
  • Should never be administered as a formal questionnaire.
  • A&PR includes information that indicates who are being asked the various questions.
  • Should be commenced as soon as the initial C&PP is completed, then yearly except for under five years which need to be every six months due to their rapid developmental changes.
  • Leads to a comprehensive review of the care and placement plan. 

How they link with child protection processes?

  • Ensures that up to date information about how the child’s development informs ongoing case planning and best interests assessment processes.
  • A copy of each completed A&PR should be put on the child protection file.
  • Completing the A&PR will assist care team members to provide relevant information to inform and assist medical practitioners undertaking initial and other professionals undertaking more specialist assessments eg Take Two.
  • For school age children, completing the education section of the A&PR should involve sharing relevant information between the care team and the school via Student Support Group processes.
  • Completing an A&PR is also expected to inform and/or be informed by ongoing cultural planning and leaving care /transition planning processes where applicable.

Review of care and placement plan (RC&PP)

What is it?

  • A workbook that guides the care team to develop a new C&PP
  • Looks at the changes since the previous C&PP and reviews the C&PP (not the case plan).
  • Each section across each of the seven Looking After Children domains from the old C&PP is reviewed to consider:
    • actual outcomes of the planned actions
    • whether previously identified need has been met or not
    • what new information has emerged since the last plan/review.
  • A new C&PP is developed and recorded in the RC&PP - which is then rolled over to become the new plan.

Why use it?

  • To ensure that the C&PP is addressing the current care needs of the child /young person.

How use it?

  • The collaborative approach used to develop the C&PP needs to be used for the review process.
  • First used after the A&PR completed and then at least every six months.

How it links with child protection processes?

  • As described for C&PP.
  • Ensures that up to date planning related to day-to-day care informs and is informed by ongoing case planning processes.
  • Can be used to frame recommendations to vary the case plan.
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